Time is cruel.
Its especially cruel when it comes to entertainment because when you mention Dead of Night, most people have no idea what you’re talking about. There have been decades of films and television shows that were directly inspired by this film, (in fact the entire British horror anthology industry!) which does the sort of nightmarish dream logic thing better than most of its progeny.
For many the standout segment was the last one. (By saying this, I will not demean the earlier segments, with an upsetting game of hide and seek, and a rather sinister mirror, or the rather potent wrap around story.) It is again cruel to watch now, as it concerns a very unwell ventriloquist and a rather mouthy dummy. Its seems familiar, but only because its been ripped off so many times that the original doesn’t seem fresh anymore.
But Michael Redgrave is brilliant as a man coming apart before our very eyes, with all of his lusts and weaknesses pouring out of his wooden dummy Hugo, whom he is quite convinced is alive. Combined with his own self-loathing and drunkenness, he is a ticking timebomb, and when the bomb goes off, someone gets shot.
But that’s not the worst of it. Maxwell is such a mess at this point, his desperate doctors realize that it makes more sense to talk to the dummy directly, than to try to reason with him. Meanwhile, he’s convinced that Hugo intends to leave for another act, abandoning him in his cell. It causes a terrible psychotic break which leads to an ending that scarred viewers for at least a generation, and created an entirely new type of horror.